Today was challenging. For the first time in a while we had headwinds. Not especially strong ones but enough to keep our speed down. Mark and Corey has oatmeal in their hotel room. I opted to dine at Eureka’s finest breakfast establishment.
A western omelet with burnt hash browns and burnt toast and weak coffee. A bargain at a third the price.
I hit the road and decided to not fight the wind. So I poked along the road through the Flint Hills at 9 mph. The clouds were low but not threatening. A light mist and temperatures in the 60s made it perfect riding weather despite the winds.
At Rosalia the convenience store was no longer there. So it was on to Cassoday The hills were no longer flinty but the spaces were wide open. Green everywhere. Simpsons’s clouds in the sky.
At a restaurant in Cassoday I caught up to Mark and Corey. They were finishing second breakfast and Mark was bemoaning his bad case of SBS, Sore Butt Syndrome.
As we left, store dog Maisie came to say goodbye.
Off they rode with me well behind. There would be no services of any sort for the next 40 miles. The wind did us a favor by dying down. I didn’t see Mark and Corey until I caught them taking a roadside rest about halfway to Newton.
They took off while I snarfed some peanuts. Then I gave slow pursuit.
20 miles later I rolled into Newton. I found the town’s bike shop and bought a red blinks light for The Mule. Then I rode around the block to the Voth’s house. Orvin greeted me and his from John lifted The Mule up the wrap around porch’s steps. Janet greeted us inside.
The three of them fed us, let us do laundry, and told us stories.
Tomorrow we go off route for free housing at a church in Hutcheson. The TransAm has many, many more free lodging options than the last two routes I used in 2017 and 2018.
I met Martin Arnold in the Honey Pot in Gackle, North Dakota. Actually, I woke him up after midnight. Martin had begun his bike tour two months before mine in Brunnen, Switzerland.
For the next month we met time and again as we both made our way to Anacortes, Washington. Martin had a video camera and has made this edited account of his ride. The section of his ride in Europe is new to me. Although we didn’t see each other, our routes actually overlapped somewhat from DC to Indiana and again from Minneapolis to Gackle.
I got a good laugh out of the pictures from the Northern Cascades in Washington state. He’s going fast one second then crawling the next. Just as I remember it. Except that the crawling lasted all morning and the speedy descents lasted a few blissful hours in the afternoon.
At the end of the video is his blog address. The blog is in German but contains many more pictures including one of the two of us when we briefly rode together near Colville National Forest.
Renee and I stayed up past midnight telling stories about all the defective people on our lives. Just kidding. We did stay up late though aided by her kids Rob and Julia. Julia has the darkest brown eyes. Like my son’s.
After a big breakfast prepared by mother and daughter, I was sent on my way. I forgot to take their picture. I am a shitty friend.
The ride out of West Palm Beach and back to the shore was reasonably easy except for this one dump truck that nearly ran me over. I caught up to it and explained to the driver as calmly as a mindful person could that he was a fucking asshole. I am grateful that his window was open so that he could hear every syllable.
I reached the Indian River and encountered some road flooding. I rode through it because I am so waterlogged after a week of rain that I don’t give a dam (water pun).
Next I climbed over the bridge to Mar-a-Lago. The most impressive thing about the place was the American flag. It was yuge. I couldn’t find the entrance so I took a picture of its rectum.
Then it was down the coast on Scenic A1A. The traffic was not bad at all. There was some more flooding and obvious hurricane damage to trees but nothing too extreme.
Down the coast then across the intracostal waterway to the mainland then back to the coast. Over and over. The houses and resorts were more bigly than Mar-a-Lago from what I could see. And the condo complexes were bigger with each passing mile. When they were on my right, away from the beach, they caused a wind reversal that blasted me with headwinds.
I was earning the miles today.
During my final crossing of the intracostal waterway an iguana ran across the road in front of me. He was two or three feet long. Then another one ran across. Eek.
My route took me to a non-wooden boardwalk in Hollywood Beach. I slalomed through the tourists. Eventually I was back on A1A which was now a big highway all the way to Miami Beach. It was ten miles of vehicular cycling on a two wheeled tank.
Not much fun, especially when a black BMW missed side swiping me by inches. I caught up to it at a light. The driver was texting, I yelled at her to put her phone down. She looked away, took a right on red, and nearly hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk. La di dah. Life’s a beach.
As I reached South Beach people looked like they weren’t from Indianapolis. Men dressed like women. (Martha, did you see that! Oh my!) Women dressed as men. Dudes driving Maseratis and Lamborghinis. What a change from the rural poor of South Carolina.
I made it to my hostel a block from the ocean on South Beach. Nice place. Very clean. Could use much better bike parking.
I went to dinner. The street was closed to cars and lined with restaurants. Hosts and hostesses tried to entice you to eat st their restaurant. I told one I told one of them that the scene reminded me of Melbourne, Australia.
Tacos and a beer cost more than my lodging at the HI hostel. And the hostel will give me breakfast.
I did not go to the beach, I am beached out.
So it was an 81.5 mile day. I’ve ridden 1,781.5 miles so far.
Tomorrow is on to Key Largo. The real adventure begins. The road to Key West is open but I may have to ride through in one day. 108 miles. It’s like a marathon. The first half is 20 miles. The second half is a brutal 10K.
After riding to the Nationals game on Saturday in the rain, I couldn’t pass up riding to the Sunday game when the forecast called for perfect baseball weather. So I hopped on the Cross Check at around 11 and headed to DC.
The ride in was just a little on the chilly side but the skies were blue and the trees had leaves. Spring rocks.
As I approached Jones Point Park, I noticed a cyclists standing next to a loaded bike. Seriously loaded. It was a cargo bike with six panniers, a handlebar bag, and a solar panel on the rear rack. The cyclist was looking at a map and seemed confused. I stopped and helped him by leading him through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. When we got to the Washington Sailing Marina between Old Town and National Airport we stopped to talk. Charles started this ride in the Pacific Northwest. He rode down the west coast, hung a louie at San Diego and another at Saint Augustine. His tour had taken him over 5,000 miles so far. He spent last year riding coast to coast across the northern part of the US. He was planning on taking a break in DC. To buy a boat. And store it at the marina. Or some such thing. I couldn’t follow the logistics, probably because I couldn’t understand how he could afford to spend his life on a bike. And buy a boat.
I left Charles to his nautical aspirations and rode into DC. I absolutely love riding to the ballpark because I get to ride by the parking lots that get progressively more expensive as I get nearer to the park. The bike valet – really just a secure bike parking facility under the watchful eyes of two attendants – is inside the ballpark itself. It is free (except for the tip which you give to the attendants at check out).
I took my seat out in the stands beyond left field with the warm sun shining down on me. I had forgotten to bring sunscreen but I figured I would be okay for a couple of hours. I ate a sandwich that I brought instead of the expensive junk food at the park. Then I settled in for a nice game against a weak opponent, the Minnesota Twins.
As usually happens the people that I sat among became friends for the day. There was a mom and her ten-ish year old daughter in front of me. Daughter had a small baseball glove. (“You’re going to save me if a baseball comes our way, right?”) There were two dudes to my right manspreading and drinking beers. (I moved over a seat and got into the slouchy vibe.
The guy to my right scoffed at the Nats leadoff hitter, Matt den Dekker. “He can field but the Mets got rid of him because he can’t hit.” I retorted “He’s got some power for a little guy.” And so den Dekker homered to make me look like a baseball genius. Later, he made several brilliant catches in the outfield so my bro was also vindicated.
Our section had plenty of Minnesota fans. So there was good natured teasing going on throughout the game. Our fearless pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitched for seven innings after over 100 pitches he becomes mortal, but the bullpen was tired so the manager left him in. In a flash he gave up a three-run home run which landed about ten seats to my right. Down 4-1 it looked like the game was lost. People started to leave.
It was 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. More people started to leave.
Our manager, Dusty Baker, had decided to rest the 2015 MVP, a fellow by the name of Bryce Harper, for the day. Baker actually told Harper before the game that he would only use him in a situation that would make him look like a hero. So Harper comes up to pinch hit and powers the second pitch he sees into the stand beyond center field. Tie game! The crowd goes nuts!
And so we went into extra innings. After four innings the Nationals have a comical race among six “presidents” who are men with giant heads. They run around the wa.rning track to a finish line tape near the Nats dugout. It is utterly stupid and funny as hell. Our game was running so long that they ran a second presidents race.
We were getting slap happy in the stands. The game dragged on. 10, 11, 12 innings.
The Nationals ran out of position players. They used a pitcher to pinch hit. He got a single. No lie.
Fans starting joking about being held hostage. All I could think of were the lyrics to “Band on the Run”:
If we ever get out of here
Thought of giving it all away
To registered charity
All I need is a pint a day
If we ever get out of here
If we ever get out of here
I moved down to the front row overlooking the left fielders. I yelled down to Werth, “Hey, Jason. Want some coffee?”
In the middle of the 14th inning we had a second seventh inning stretch. I kid you not.
The Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario, had littered the grass with pieces of yellow paper. The Nats left fielder, Jason Werth, picked them up and
methodically arranged them in a neat row. A guy sitting behind me joked that Werth was trying to get enough paper to spell out SOS on the grass. Another guy said, “Hey, we are literally trash talking.”
The Twins went ahead by a run in the top of the 15th. All hope was lost. Rosario made a mess of Werth’s paper pile. The fans in left field started yelling “Pick it up Eddie.” Rosario laughed. I yelled at him: “It’s karma, Eddie. You’ll pay for this.”
The Nationals got a man on first base. The Twins ignored him and he advanced to second. The next batter up was Oliver Perez, a pitcher who hadn’t batted since 2010. The Twins unbelievably brought in another reliever to face him.
All was lost. Until Perez dropped a bunt that the catcher fielded. Perez was out by a mile, except that the catcher threw the ball about six feet over the first baseman’s head. Tie game.
Karma, Eddie. Karma.
We moved to the 16th. Werth came out and repaired his pile of paper. The Twins didn’t score. The Nationals came to bat and their right fielder, Chris Heisey, launched a home run over the Twins bullpen. The place went completely nuts. Delirium.
Dusty Baker later called it a twilight zone game.
By this point, nearly six hours after the game started a chill was in the air. I was an odd combination of warm and cold. Six hours of sun on had given me a sunburn on the right side of my body. I wore a jacket to keep the left side of my body warm.
The by now thin crowd left with ear to ear grins. At the bike valet I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since December. We celebrated our mini reunion and the exhausting victory with a huge hug.
And then I was off. As I crossed the Potomac into Virginia I stopped to admire an amazing sunset skyscape. Even with swarms of gnats (how appropriate) along the way, the ride home in the cool spring evening was perfect.
It was 50 degrees at 7 am. On January 10. Go figure.
I decided to take Big Nellie for a spin. I got side tracked by bike maintenance. It’s hard to do bike maintenance when it is cold outside. So I cleaned and lubed the chains on three of my four bikes. It’s a bit like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentists. The chains are all shiny now.
Big Nellie was very patient. Off we rode to the Mount Vernon Trail. By this time it was about 60 degrees and windy. There were serious waves on the river. I spotted a guy in a wet suit leaning against his car to my left. To my right was his sailboard. Dude, it’s January.
As I approached Fort Hunt Park I spotted a man with a fully loaded bicycle at the water fountain along the trail. (It’s January 10 and they haven’t turned off the water yet? Go figure.)
Ivan is from China. His English is perfect so we had a pretty extensive conversation. He’s been riding across the US for the last 12 months. He started in Washington State then rode through Oregon, Idaho, Utah,….,the Katy Trail in Missouri. I’d have remembered all the places he has ridden but I was thinking about how much cold weather this dude has been riding in. Dang. He said he did 30 – 35 miles on short days and 60 – 65 on long days. I suppose he’s had lots of practice. He’s staying with a friend in Arlington, selling his bike, going to Boston then back home to China. If you want a fully equipped Chinese touring bike, keep you eyes open. The model is, I kid you not, “World Traveler.” After trying out the seat of Big Nellie, Ivan headed off toward DC. Nice guy.
I did a lap around Fort Hunt Park. There were all kinds of bicyclists and a tadpole trike rider doing laps. I peeled off and headed for Old Town. I made it back to the MVT and, sure enough, passed Ivan who was getting a MAMIL escort.
I rode up Union Street to make sure that Ivan wasn’t going to get harassed by the Alexandria police. They were not having a bicycle stop sign stake out so I kept rolling to the north.
At Four Mile Run I headed over to Arlandria and from there back toward home.
The wind was in my face but it didn’t much matter. When I got back to the MVT, I was passed by a faired recumbent with a body sock. It looked something like this. It went by me like I was standing still.
I saw this bike in Rosslyn today as I was going to lunch. Whoever is riding this machine has travelling light down to a science. Handlebar bag and seat bag and that’s IT! Note the absence of a water bottle is made up for by the canteen strapped to the front of the handlebar bag. I would venture to guess that I carry more stuff to and from work than this cyclists carries wherever he may be going.
You know the drill. It was Friday morning. Once I get out that door, I’m good. Drink some OJ. Eat a banana. Boogie.
I left early to maximize my Friday Coffee Club time. Big Nellie was on autopilot. I don’t think I passed any regulars. Frankly, I could have passed the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Into the city and around the Jefferson Memorial. I passed two runners and out of the corner of my eye I recognized one. Of course, her name is Kate (the first of three today). She was talking intensely (when your running in swamp air it’s hard to look anything but intense) so she didn’t see me on my rolling lawn chair. Gypsybug says to ride like your invisible. I apparently am.
In the 15th Street cycle track, Kel came flying by, riding downhill to my uphill. She had to leave Friday Coffee Club early. She had to be to work by 8. Poor Kel
At Swing’s, Reba and the aforementioned Gyspybug were keeping a dozen guys entertained. They looked grumpy. (The guys, not Reba and Gypsybug. They always look smashing.) Okay, only Aaron looked grumpy, but this is his natural state. Next Jon showed up with his two little girls in a bike trailer. They are beyond CUTE! And very well behaved.
Two big girls, Katie and Kate (the second and third Kates of the day) showed up. Katie just finished a minibike tour. And Kate is soon to leave us for grad school. (Sad face.)
Then the star of the day showed up. Nicole was riding her bike from Minnesota to Massachusetts. One of the Coffee Clubbers ran into her near the C&O Canal and invited her to join us. She got a round of applause and fit right in to the group. I am beginning to think that Swing’s spikes their drinks with nice juice.
Around 9 we all went our separate ways. Hi ho! Hi ho!
Eight-ish hours later the skies opened up. Every bike commuter in DC had the radar on his computer at work. I missed my first chance at a dry escape around 4:30. A half hour later, a cap in the storm appeared. Hiyo, Nellie. Away!
I got about a mile before it started raining lightly. I rode very gently because Big Nellie’s front wheel has a bad habit of sliding out on wet pavement. This is not a lot of fun for yours truly and I have plenty of scars to prove it.
I looked over at the city and could see distinct areas of heavy downpours. The downpours didn’t look like much fun. Near the 14th Street Bridge underpass an old regular came by. She’s literally old, gray hair, maybe in her 60s. Her mouth is usually open. She’s been riding to and from my neighborhood for at least ten years; I seem to recall seeing her in Mount Vernon Hospital. Ironically, despite her experience, she wears her helmet back on her head. For all the miles she’s put in, she can wear her helmet however she pleases.
I could see a line of clouds rolling in as I biked past the airport. Every so often I would get a little rain from the front edge of the storm. Pedal, pedal.
A commuter rode by. He asked me a couple of weeks ago if I liked my waterproof Ortlieb panniers. I highly recommended them. He took my advice and bought a pair.
Another commuter passed me and said, “Nice shirt.” I was wearing a Backroads Century t-shirt. He was wear a Backroads cycling jersey. Monday is Bike DC t-shirt day. Please make a note of it.
I started thinking about places to seek cover in case of lightning or high winds. There are buildings with overhangs in Old Town Alexandria. The Wilkes Street tunnel. The underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. No need. Of course, as soon as all the good cover spots were behind me the clouds opened up. For the next 3 miles it poured. After a mile, it hardly mattered. I was making squishy noises with each pedal stroke. Big Nellie’s seat stayed dry because I had covered it with a white kitchen trash bag. (No, I was never a boy scout.)
At Northdown Road, the rain stopped. A cyclists stopped in the middle of the road to clear some fallen limbs. We rode together on the east side of the GW Parkway. The road had a fresh later of asphalt. Sooo nice.
The last 1 1/2 miles of my commute puts me on Collingwood Road. Dark clouds were ahead. I reached back and turned on my red blinky light. As I approached a red light at Fort Hunt Road, lightning flashed a couple of miles to my right. I rarely run red lights but GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! Pedal, pedal.
I made it home and got in the house just as the clouds opened up. It didn’t much matter. I was already wet.
After a week off the bike, I was dying to get outside on a warm-ish spring day. So I headed to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. I figured with the nice weather I’d probably run into some of my new bike buddies. Six miles from home, Ted and Jean came rolling by. Jean didn’t spot me and kept riding but Ted turned around and we talked for several minutes, as Jean faded into the distance.
After our chat, I rolled northward through hoards of tourists in Old Town Alexandria. On bike touristy days, the Mount Vernon Trail is usually a nightmare of clueless out-of-towners riding painfully slowly, stopping in the middle of the trail or doing button hooks. Today was not so bad. I made it to DC on Little Nellie in about an hour.
At Gravelley Point I spotted the first sign of spring: a bike tourist on her way up the coast. The Mount Vernon Trail is part of US Bicycle Route 1, the Eastcoast Greenway and Adventure Cycling’s Atlantic Coast and Potomac Highlands routes. Bike tourists are always interesting to talk with and Courtney was no exception. She’s on her way from Charleston SC to Maine where she will begin a J-O-B. (How we hate that word!) Good lick Courtney. Great talking with you.
While talking with Courtney I looked across the Potomac River and I could see that the cherry blossoms were not yet in bloom. I rode to DC anyway to check out the scene. The city was SWARMING with tourists!!!! In addition to people wandering around the Tidal Basin in a vain search for a white bloom, there were mobs of people wanding the National Mall where the annual kite festival was going on. The crowds were no doubt made bigger by the fact that March Madness is residing at the Verizon Center just a few blocks north of the mall. It amazes me that people actually drive their cars to the mall on a day like today. I followed a car with Louisiana plates for the better part of a mile along the mall. Dude, dump the car. It’s useless!
After dodging my 1,233rd tourist, I got in line with a Segway tour and made an escape on 14th Street. Once over the bridge, I was treated to a tailwind on the Mount Vernon Trail. I saw a woman on a bike with her handlebar basket over flowing with flowers. It’s Easter weekend or she’s got a hot date. Or maybe she’s biking to a wake. Who knows.
Not far from where I saw them earlier, I came upon Ted and Jean again. We stopped and chatted across the Parkway from the Belle Haven bald eagle nest. As we did, Ted spotted a red tailed hawk in a nearby tree. The bird took to the wing and gave us a nice show. Jean showed off her new bike, a red Specialized beauty. Bike envy!!!
Shortly after seeing Ted and Jean I left the Mount Vernon Trail and headed up the Park Terrace hill. A man wearing bunny ears was posing for a photo with his kids in their front yard. He asked me if I was going to make it to the top of the hill and I said I was (I wasn’t even out of breath). I don’t think he realized how silly he looked with the ears on his head.
I stopped at Sherwood Hall Gourmet to pick up a Gary’s Lunchbox, my favorite sammich. After lunch, I changed the rear tube on Little Nellie. My rear tube has had a slow leak for over a month. I pulled the tube out, inflated it, and tried to find the leak. No dice. I spent 15 minutes listening and running my hand over the tube. I gave up and put a new tube in. I suspect the old one has a leaky valve.
Another sign of spring is yardwork. I spent 2 hours after lunch pulling purple weeds out of my gardens beds and my lawn. Even with annoying yard work, spring is way better than winter.